I’ve never seen anyone look more tired or downcast. Chang How’s mother, Som Kim, would often come to us in despair, with tears streaming down her face. She was tortured by the reality she was helpless to get her son the medical care he needed for a rare blood disease that was slowly killing him. Doctors said he was too weak to survive the surgery he needed to repair his tiny body. Even if he could survive the surgery, the family did not have enough money for gas to get all the way to the hospital. The situation was hopeless with the added horror of having to watch a child die. Chang How’s disease had all of our hearts in a vice grip. We cried with him, we prayed with him, and we believed there was more in store for this little boy.
Finally Chang How was proclaimed strong enough for surgery. Our hearts were moved for this boy and his family, and through compassionate donors we were able to provide them enough funds to get to and from the hospital, and meals for the time they were there. Though Chang How had been cleared for surgery, the doctors still were not 100% optimistic. He had been sick for a long time, and they weren’t sure he would make it, but if they didn’t try the end was certain. We prayed fervently for Chang How as he was in surgery, and waited anxiously to hear the result. When the news came that he had made it through without complications, we headed to the hospital to rejoice with Som Kim, and to see still sleeping Chang How with our own eyes. The surgery went perfectly, there were no complications, and the relief in Som Kim's exhausted eyes took our breath away.
If this was the end of the story, I think we’d all agree - it’s a good one. But it isn’t the end.
When Chang How returned to his village and regained his strength, the first thing he did was put on his backpack and march on his seven year old legs through the mud to school. Throughout his sickness, the thing that made him most excited was the thought of being able to attend school, just like his older sister.
I saw Chang How some time after this surgery - and I realized that I had never even seen him walk around. He had always been too tired. But now, his distended belly is a normal size, and he runs around with his classmates in front of the school getting into mischief, and making toys out of the mud.
The dream for the MineField Village is not simply that people would be able to survive - for the most part, they’re already doing that. The dream is for them to have the opportunities they need to thrive.
Without education Chang How would have survived his disease, but his future would be somewhat bleak - struggling each day for enough food and money, defending his family against crooked debt collectors, and collapsing, exhausted into bed each night only to do the same thing all over again the next day. Because of Chang How’s access to education, he has a chance to thrive unlike anyone in his family ever has. He has a chance to be educated from a young age, which will open up a world to him that just five years ago was an impossibility.
God ensured that Chang How survived, and now, we get to join together to ensure that he thrives.
Third grade is not enough, survival is not enough. We have a chance to make a change so big it could alter the course of the history of Cambodia - together, we can arm children like Chang How and impact generations to come.
- Sarah Addy